If you were lucky enough to be around during 1988 to 1996, give or take a year or two forward or backward, you would have been witness to what most Hip Hop heads consider to be the Golden Era of Hip Hop music.
This era was extremely competitive, which brought forth some really creative projects. Artists back then were eagerly pushing the boundaries as far as concepts and production is concerned so the music was heartfelt with a singular focus, crush anything out there!
Let me preface what you’re about to experience… This list is entirely subjective. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a barbershop or a bar where everyone agrees on this list. To this day, there are still heated debates about who is the Top 5 anything in Hip Hop.
That being said, here are the Best Golden Era Hip Hop Albums to Listen to While High…. In any order.
Outkast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
Andre 3000 and Big Boi, along with production team Organized Noize not only set the bar for the South, they redefined what it meant to be an artist from the South. The Golden Era was mostly dominated by East Coast artists so any sound outside of that region was subject to heavy criticism. Critics eventually agreed that Atlanta was the New Motown of the South. This album was created in a small basement but flourishes with massive production. You’ll definitely feel that down home, front porch, type of vibe…
Paired with a heavy Indica like Blueberry or Northern Lights, you’ll be taken on a magic carpet ride.
Outkast – ATLiens
Outkast didn’t just make a statement with their debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. They plowed right through the sophomore jinx and pushed the envelope even further with ATLiens. On this album they showed their production skills by taking over the beat making while still assisted by Organized Noize. More importantly, they tackled bigger concepts that opened the door to discussing social injustices, reminiscent of Gil Scott Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’.
This album is a bit more mature and slower paced in comparison to their first album, so when you take this ride pair it with a Sativa Dominant Hybrid – Mango Kush, Jillybean, Super Blue Dream/Super Silver Haze.
Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill
Here’s something you can’t understand – How Cypress Hill, introduced a hard hitting debut album that featured sounds typically associated with the East Coast sound and flipped it into a West Coast classic.
This trio, out of Los Angeles, paved a path for numerous West Coast artists that were heavily influenced by Hip Hop out of New York. The sounds of the time were heavy drums and creatively chopped samples. DJ Muggs added another element by interweaving whiny synthesizer samples and sounds.
In addition to that, Cypress Hill opened up an avenue for more Latin artists as they proudly represented Latin Culture all throughout this album. It would also be a disservice if I didn’t mention the fact that their logo is stamped with a marijuana leaf, but more importantly this album provides a visceral experience from start to finish as you feel the effects of the high.
This album overall is uptempo with dips along the way. Pair it with an Indica Dominant Hybrid – OG Kush, Skywalker OG, Pineapple Chunk, and of course Cali Kush. If you’re really feeling old school, crack a 40 of Old E or Mickey’s.
A Tribe Called Quest – Low End Theory
Back in days on the boulevard of Linden, this Hall of Fame Hip Hop group from Queens, New York mastered the simple formula of beats, rhymes, and life. The Low End Theory will appear on any top list, all genres, internationally, commercially and underground, over any era. Irrefutably one of the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time. Most of their discography as a group can also be regarded as such.
This album particularly combines the perfect blend of Jazz and Hip Hop as heavy bass samples ride over classic breaks. Then here comes the duo of Phife Dawg (R.I.P.) and Q-Tip to melodically fill in the gaps with socially aware content and graciously honest story telling that heads could genuinely relate to. They never came off as “boujee” or egotistical as their music found them feeling comfortable in their own shoes. This could be attributed to their association with the Native Tongues and Zulu Nation, movements that both represented consciousness.
Pair this album with a classic Sativa – Jack Herer or Sour Diesel to balance out the mellow theme of the production. This album can also be paired with a classic Indica – Grand Daddy Purp or Master Kush to allow you to sink right into that classic head nod you see Hip Hop heads do when the beat comes on.
Dr. Dre – The Chronic
Would I be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the single most important West Coast album of all time? Not to mention that the title of this album alone promotes the use of Marijuana. Yeah, that’s the surface of it. But this classic album dropped during a time when all of the great Hip Hop albums were coming out of New York. I would go as far as saying that this album rebirthed gangster rap as we know it today, following in the footsteps of N.W.A. The Chronic departed from its predecessor in that it highly encouraged the use of all things marijuana, when back in the day, Dre could be quoted as saying “I don’t smoke weed or sess”, on the track Express Yourself off the Straight Outta Compton album.
However, this album isn’t on this list because its themed after weed. The production value and collaborations on this album make it one of the all time heavy hitters in Hip Hop. Dre used breaks, used 808s, used recognizable samples and interpolations, used whiny synthesizers, and introduced us to a handful of notable West Coast MCs.
From front to back, this album serves up comical, controversial, easy going, party and BBQ worthy, confrontational music. It found a home with a sweeping demographic. This was a ghetto classic and a college frat party all in one.
Due to its eardrum and speaker damaging heavy knock, pair this with the heaviest Indica you can find. Like the shit at your local dispensary that they keep for the employees – Strains with Hindus, Berries, Bubbas, all of those and anything in between with extremely high Caryophyllene & Myrcene levels. This album is a hypnotic joy ride through the neighborhood.
So what about Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, Souls of Mischief, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Wu-Tang, etc..??? All of those artists and many more put out classics for sure. However, I’m basing my list off of the entirety of production and lyrical content together, overall experience, and recommended Marijuana strains with the music. To provide a moving and semi-out-of-body experience. *Illmatic and Only Built for Cuban Links were my highest rated honorable mentions.
Again, this is purely subjective as are most lists. What I challenge you to do is find those albums that speak to you and add them to the never ending debate about Top 5 this, Top 5 that…
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